Professor part of effort to have Islamic State violence recognized as genocide

By KEVIN KILBANE | The News-Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Ind.) | Published: August 18, 2015

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Tribune News Service) — John Andrew Morrow doesn't want to be in the position where, in the future, his children ask what he did to stop the violence of the Islamic State, and he had to answer, "Nothing."

So Morrow joined with others in what they call the Genocide Initiative — an effort to urge nations and human rights groups to recognize as genocide the killing by the Islamic State of Christians, Shiite Muslims, and members of various tribal and ethnic groups.

"I for one cannot stand still in the face of evil, in the face of injustice," said Morrow, a professor of foreign languages at Ivy Tech Community College-Northeast.

Morrow, who lives in Auburn, already had been promoting peace in the Middle East through his book "The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World," which was published in November 2013.

Through an effort they call the Covenants Initiative, he and poet Charles Upton of Lexington, Ky., are trying to make world leaders and Muslims aware of six covenants Islam's great prophet, Muhammad, signed with Christian groups before his death in A.D. 632. Muhammad signed similar agreements with Jewish and other groups, Morrow has said.

The covenants reportedly promise the groups protection until the end of the world if the groups agree to live under the civil government of a Muslim confederation.

But while Upton worked on organizing a joint Christian-Muslim march against ISIS, a bishop from the Chaldean Catholic Church recommended they start an effort to have ISIS' actions declared genocide, Morrow said. The Chaldean Catholic Church is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church and mainly ministers to people in the Middle East.

The Genocide Initiative also applies to other groups, such as the Free Syrian Army, which are described as moderates but which also want to force people of other faiths or backgrounds to leave the area or to kill them, Morrow said.

If the actions of ISIS and the other groups are recognized as genocide, countries such as the United States would have a moral obligation to stop the killing, he said.

"After the Holocaust, people said, 'Never again,'" he said. "Then Bosnia happened. Rwanda happened. 'Never again.' And we are sitting here watching genocide."

Stopping ISIS' brutality can come either through direct military intervention or through various countries arming the persecuted groups so they can defend themselves, Morrow said. He described Shiite Muslims, Kurds, Yazidis and Christians as "sitting ducks."

Halting the genocide also can involve taking action against countries that created, trained, armed and now pay fighters for Islamic State and other groups, Morrow said. In addition, Morrow believes outside countries should freeze Islamic State' financial assets and seize its bank accounts.

The Genocide Initiative's attorneys are working now to draw up a petition calling for Islamic State' actions to be recognized as genocide, Morrow said. The petition likely will be posted in the near future on the website Change.org, www.change.org, so people can sign it. The website describes itself as "The World's Platform for Change."

When they have enough signatures, Morrow said they will begin presenting the petition to world leaders, U.S. governors, human rights organizations and others to lobby for them to take action.

"We are a movement promoting peace," he said. "But we also realize you can't sit around holding hands, singing 'Kumbaya' and 'We Shall Overcome' while Islamic State surrounds your village."

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An image grab from a video published on YouTube on Feb. 15, 2015 shows black-clad Islamic State militants in Libya standing behind kidnapped Egyptian Coptic Christians on the Mediterranean coast of Libya, according to the video.


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